I’m seriously having problems finding content to write about for Portnoy’s Complaint, due to all the graphic sexual content. But I couldn’t pass up this passage, which describes Alex Portnoy’s father’s issues with constipation.
It’s funny and a little crude. So if you don’t like potty humor, this is your fair warning for the remainder of this post.
Here’s the moving moment:
My first experience with Philip Roth was American Pastoral. I loved the book.
Roth’s storytelling and writing style just blew me away.
Portnoy’s Complaint is a completely different style of novel, written a few decades before American Pastoral.
And it’s graphic. Really graphic. Almost all of it in a sexual nature. Shocking in some places. Roth’s narrator, Alexander Portnoy, uses variations of words I’m unsure I’ve ever heard before. It’s a little overdone, in my view, but I can see the forest through the trees and still appreciate Roth’s writing style.
If you can get past the lewdness, and there’s a lot of it, this can be a funny book. One particular scene from early on stands out to me.
Alex is Jewish, but has been turned off to the faith by his crazy mother, who is a devout Jew. She treats their Rabbi as if he’s the King of England, so when he shows up to see her at the hospital, Alex’s mom just about passes out from excitement. It’s a celebrity!
Alex explains his disgust:
Even though I’m not a huge fan of Ragtime, the book does have its fair share of funny passages. I shared one with you on Tuesday. Here’s another one.
This passage describes a meeting between JP Morgan and several other famous wealthy businessmen from that era.
Ragtime has a dark sense of humor.
The storytelling is dry, even slightly boring at times. There is no dialogue in the traditional sense—no quotes set apart from the rest of the narrative.
Doctorow’s style is unique. And while I can’t say that I’m crazy about the book, I must say I loved the following passage that illustrates his dark humor.
I always judge a book by how much I mark in it–either a note or two in the margins or underlining passages.
By that standard, The Golden Notebook should rank fairly high on my list.
I didn’t expect much from this book, but it’s been a pleasant surprise. Nothing groundbreaking. It’s not going to give The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird a run, but it is a really good book that has held my attention–at least until the last 100 pages or so, but I’ll cover that in my review next week.
And guess what? It’s not even that heavy on plot! How I surprise myself sometimes.
The Golden Notebook is a novel that focuses on character development. And with that comes a lot of great insights from these characters.
I pulled a few of my favorite quotes from this novel so far.
Finally, the next five books. A fresh start. A few new authors. This is one of my favorite parts of this project–deciding on which books to read next.
As always, it’s a mix between short and long novels. My strategy is to not leave myself weighted down by a bunch of the thicker novels at the end. So I always try and have a good mix of the long stuff and the short stuff.
So here’s the next five, in no particular order.
If you’ve watched Office Space, or The Office for that matter, and read 1984, then you’ll hopefully follow this post.
This passage from Snow Crash is what happens if Big Brother invaded Initech. What we have here is a memo that the federal government sent to its employees–one of whom is the mother of a main character (Y.T.). I know it’s long, but stick with it.
Sure, my 53rd book from the Time list is Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
You might know that. Or maybe you don’t.
But what the heck is a “snow crash,” and how does it relate to this novel?
Great question! I never thought you would ask.
Neal Stephenson explains the term like this in his essay In the Beginning… was the Command Line: “When the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set—a ‘snow crash’ ”.
The result might look something like what you see in the featured image.
In the novel, the “snow crash” is more than just a computer issue. It’s a drug that is being circulated in the “metaverse”—think World of Warcraft but with just people, not orcs—and will jack up both your computer and your brain.
Wasn’t there a horror film with this concept? You watch a video with a bunch of freaky images and you die a few days later? I wonder if they pulled that from Snow Crash.
Snow Crash has a strong opening. Whether or not the rest of the novel is good, I can’t say. But I will say that the first 50 pages were outstanding.
The setting is a futuristic society. The main character’s name is pretty awesome: “Hiro Protagonist.” His job? He’s a hacker and pizza delivery driver known as “The Deliverator.”
The pizza delivery company that The Deliverator works for is owned by the mafia–led by a guy named Uncle Enzo. If a driver delivers the pizza late–over 30 minutes–they die. Literally.
Here’s the passage from the book that explains it:
Pale Fire is no doubt a strange book that’s guided by a strange man–the main character John Kinbote. He’s crazy, literally.
But like many crazy people, he has moments of genius. As the reader, you really have to be prepared for that with this novel. Kinbote is one of the most unreliable narrators you’ll ever read, and Nabokov does an outstanding job of mixing insanity and unreliability with genius and profound wisdom.
This passage describes an assassin named Gradus–who has been hired to assassinate the King of Zembla. Yeah, I don’t have time to really explain that right now, so just go with me here.
Anyway, here’s how Kinbote describe this assassin.